Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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The Bad, the Worse, and the Pretty All Right

Six months in, forty films down. Not such a bad record, if I say so myself. Indeed, this could very well be the best I've ever done. This time last year, I'd seen fewer than 25. I guess that's what happens when you work at a movie theater, close to home, in the center of Hollywood.

It's been an interesting year, so far. Potentially great films have been mishandled/disappointing, while mere distractions have turned out to be quasi-masterpieces. The best films so far have been unassuming, pleasant little things for the most part. And even the worst films have a little spark of something to recommend them -- probably why they're so frustrating.

Still, I suppose it's great that there are only three films that I could say I hated, and even those come with something redeeming. The Five-Year Engagement is overlong and self-indulgent -- co-writer Jason Segel plays a stand-in for co-writer/director Nicholas Stoller who women keep hurling themselves at -- but at least Rhys Ifans and the ever-reliable Emily Blunt play frustrating, endearing, terrible, wonderful, real people. The Lucky One has neither story or characters, but the cinematography sure is beautiful. And The Lorax is just terrible, but that earbug of an opening song fooled me into thinking I was going to have a good time. Still, all three films just filled me with such deep loathing that I hope to never even see those posters again.


Then there are the films that I know must be terrible but are quite watchable...and rewatchable. I actually saw The Raven twice; it's gory and the idea's cool, even if they completely fuck it up in the end. And middle. And beginning. Ok, it's a huge mess, but John Cusack's performance, reminiscent of a recently-awakened drunk's sudden outbursts, must be seen. It may actually be genius, which is more than I can say for the hilarity of The Devil Inside. Perfect example: one scene intercuts between the film crew's POV and security cam footage. It's the interview between our heroine and her crazy, possibly-possessed mum, and our film crew gets great, emotional close-ups....but in the security-cam footage, the cam crew is nowhere to be seen. There's nowhere else they could be, they're just not in the wide. It's hilarious.

But lest we think horror has a monopoly on this, Lawrence Kasdan's decade-long retreat from cinemas broke with Darling Companion, in which all his movie-star friends get together in the Colorado mountains and hang out. I guess there's subtle character development, sorta, kinda, but come on. Nothing happens. At all. Yet it's all very pleasant, like having a hot chocolate with some old friends.

Old friends who like to play handgames, amirite?

 Jeff, Who Lives at Home and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen were also pleasant, albeit pedestrian time-fillers. Lola Versus seemed like it could have used more breathing room, but on the whole I liked what Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones were up to. Like Breaking Upwards, the performances are strong and the protagonist so relatable that it's a while before one realizes how awful she can be. Or human, I guess, is the correct way of putting it. One for the Money was a lot of fun, Debbie Reynolds' awful mugging aside. Tim & Eric's Billion-Dollar Movie has a lot of great things happening, though they're really reaching for that feature-length. I'd see any of these again, but I'm not in a hurry to do it.

I would also check out these movies again, if just to remind me that they existed. I even have a mini-review for one of them! They are: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Hysteria, Safe House, Wrath of the Titans, The Woman in Black and Haywire, the latter of which I fell asleep in the middle of. Not necessarily bad movies, but I probably could've skipped them and experienced life just the same. In fact, I'm even having some trouble recalling Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which I saw a week ago. 

I can't stress enough my disappointment with Dark Shadows and Rock of Ages, both of which are the best and the worst movies this year, depending on the scene. Both suffered from too many characters with not enough to do, great individual performances (Cruise, Depp, Akerman, Green, Pfeiffer, Giamatti) opposite embarrassing ones (Moretz, Boneta), and absolutely god-awful climactic lines/line-readings ("Woof", "Yeah, Heyman, rock 'n' roll will never die!").  I will say that, while Rock of Ages only comes together when Cruise is on-screen, Dark Shadows is a consistently enjoyable romp for about 2/3 of its runtime. Then Act Three spoils all the fun with its rhythm-less "action" finale. Oh, well. At least its post-dubbing was consistent with the actors' mouths; Rock of Ages never seemed to get that right, in scenes both spoken and sung. I would see either one again, but it'd have to be on DVD: that way I can just hit SKIP.

Hopefully, the last time I will ever see this face.

Come to think of it, I might just do that with Snow White and the Huntsman, too: Skip all of Charlize Theron's embarrassing shouting to get to Kristen Stewart's vulnerable, innocent, awkward, spectacular Snow White. Sure, the script is nonsense, but Stewart and the visuals are worth giving the film another look.

There were other films that were equally frustrating/disappointing. Sound of My Voice was more semi-intriguing, semi-irritating nonsense from Brit Marling, who prefers for her scripts to stop rather than end. The Hunger Games was ok....I was disappointed in the blah cinematography, awful direction, haphazard editing, dull art direction, and average performances.

Finally, to leave on a positive note. Chronicle is a solid film boasting great performances from a trio of promising young actors, fantastic visual effects work and a great premise with a mostly satisfying arc, all handled magnificently by director Josh Trank. Still, I like and admire more than I love it.

Oh, God, no! No, I...I didn't mean it! I LOVED IT! NOOOOOOO!!!

Which all comes out to twenty-four films. What of those sixteen others, then? They are the films that I would actively seek out to watch again; that I would introduce to someone; that I think about often. They are the films....

...that will be written about in another post. Prepare to be surprised, though. I was.

1 comment:

Vava said...

I kind of had the same issue remembering in, I thought it wasn't bad, but last week I couldn't remember what movie I had seen recently (besides, of course, the almost flawless SiTR--alas, the big screen did amplify some stuttering in the editing). I wanted to see the Raven and Dark Shadows; alas did not, and Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap was in and out before we could line up a date night. Flight looks like a great contender and Dark Knight Rises. Trying to think of what else is coming up but drawing a blank